SPEAKER OF MANDARIN by Ruth Rendell
Kirkus Star

SPEAKER OF MANDARIN

An Inspector Wexford Mystery

KIRKUS REVIEW

Like the last Inspector Wexford mystery, Death Notes, this new Render novel is less an earnest mystery-story (like early Wexford) than a sly, teasing entertainment--with twists galore, subtly winking salutes to A. Christie, and an improvisatory feel that never slips over into archness or parody. The first section here takes Wexford to China for a pseudo-business-trip vacation; and Rendell (no doubt just back from a tour herself) concentrates on a funny, warts-and-all travelogue as Wexford hooks up with a disgruntled tour-group on his way to Hong Kong via Canton. But odd things do occur, with hints of Orient Express, The Mirror Crack'd, Death on the Nile: a Chinese student drowns; an ancient Chinese woman seems to be following Wexford; there's tension among the English travelers. Then, suddenly, we're back in England--and who should turn up murdered in her posh home but one of Wexford's China-tour acquaintances, Mrs. Adela Knighton, wife of a retired lawyer! And Wexford starts looking up all his fellow-travelers--quizzing them about the Knightons, unearthing an array of secrets, solving those tour-mysteries as well as the murder. Less tight and polished than Death Notes, with a ho-hum fadeout--but a disarming, fairly irresistible blend of mini-puzzles, solid detection, splendid travel writing, and Wexford charm.
Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1983
ISBN: 0345302745
Page count: 212pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1983




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